[ASC-media] Forest Loss and Climate Change

Cathy Reade creade at squirrel.com.au
Sun Jul 22 09:55:35 CEST 2007


Center for International Forestry Research


High-Level Meeting on Forests and Climate, Sydney, July 23 – 25

Embargoed: 7.30am 23 July 2007


Reducing forest loss to tackle climate change is achievable but will require
governments to make tough yet fair choices 


Australia’s world-class forestry expertise along with the $200 million
initiative means Australia is well-positioned to make a major contribution
to enhancing the potential role forests can play in mitigating climate

Frances Seymour, Director General, CIFOR


International efforts to assist developing countries fight climate change by
reducing deforestation can succeed, but will require time, money and a
willingness to take often politically difficult decisions, according to the
head of a leading international forest think-tank. 


Frances Seymour, Director General of the Indonesia-headquartered Center for
International Forestry Research, is an invited speaker at the Australian
Government’s international High-Level Meeting on Forests and Climate,
Sydney, July 23 – 25. 


Other speakers on the summit’s agenda include government ministers from
overseas and Australia, including Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer
and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Malcolm Turnbull. 


The international summit follows the Australian Government’s launch earlier
this year of a $200 million initiative to reduce global greenhouse gas
emissions caused by forest loss, especially in developing countries. It is
estimated that land use change, especially deforestation in developing
countries, contributes 20 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.


Ms. Seymour said Australia’s world-class forestry expertise along with the
$200 million initiative means Australia is well-positioned to make a major
contribution to enhancing the potential role forests can play in mitigating
climate change.


“Australia can play a significant role in international efforts to mitigate
global warming by helping neighbouring countries reduce forest loss,” said
the head of the center, which receives support from Australia’s aid program
and other international donors.  


Addressing the causes of deforestation and the most promising solutions to
the problem, Ms. Seymour said national efforts in countries such as
Indonesia to stem deforestation and reduce the rate of global warming can
benefit from the assistance provided by international agencies and developed
nations such as Australia. 


According to Ms. Seymour, Australian and other international initiatives to
help reduce deforestation in developing countries such as Indonesia will be
considerably enhanced by knowledge already available on tackling


However, Ms. Seymour cautions that having the knowledge about causes and
solutions is not the same as implementing those solutions, which can be a
challenging task for all players – governments, industry, and the broader


“To achieve any meaningful reduction in the rate of deforestation in
developing countries will require governments in the north and south to be
willing to make some unpopular, but far-sighted decisions that have
political, economic, and budgetary implications,” Ms. Seymour said.


“The fact is, deforestation is driven by fundamental market failures and
governance failures. We know these problems cannot be solved overnight, but
we do know that steps can be taken today that would make a big difference.
But those measures will be resisted by people whose interests are served by
the status quo.”


One example of the complex nature of the problem cited by Ms. Seymour is the
failure of markets to recognize and place a value on the less tangible goods
and services forests provide. 


“Tropical forests provide all sorts of benefits. They moderate water flows
and provide a habitat for endangered species.” Ms. Seymour said. 


“But because the market finds it difficult to place a value on these kinds
of services, the forest is undervalued compared to the cash that can be
generated by converting forests to agriculture, and that causes


Governance failures are also an underlying cause of deforestation.
“Communities living in and around forests often do not have recognized
property rights to the forest products that are important to their
livelihoods, and their voices are seldom heard in forest policy
decision-making” Ms. Seymour said.  


“At the same time, government ministries and local governments alike often
lack the necessary authority, capacity, and accountability to fulfill their
obligations to protect forests.”


According to Ms. Seymour, research shows that behind what appears to a
simple act of cutting down a few trees lies an intricate set of social,
economic and political realities, which make deforestation a
multi-dimensional phenomenon. Moreover, most of the causes do not operate at
the level of a particular forest, but originate outside the forest from
sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure development, and overcapacity in
wood processing industries.


“The multi-sectoral causes of deforestation have been clearly documented.
And workable policy responses exist, but few are implemented. That’s because
those who would benefit include society at large and politically weak forest
communities, while the losers would include well-connected elites,” Ms.
Seymour said.


“There is a risk that if new projects and policies are rushed forward, poor
people could be made worse-off. For example, CIFOR’s research shows high
profile crackdowns on illegal logging tend to focus on the little guy with
the chain-saw, not the big guy with the swollen bank account.”


Ms. Seymour said actions to address deforestation are political decisions
that can be informed, but not determined, by scientific research. As a
result, it is crucial that governments trying to reduce deforestation, along
with the donor agencies assisting them, ensure all relevant stakeholders are
engaged in building consensus on how to best optimize the role of forests in
abating climate change. Achieving sustainable and just solutions will also
require building the capacity of stakeholders both to understand the
trade-offs, and to participate in the design and implementation of
alternatives to address them.


“We have the tools and knowledge to put the brakes on forest loss, while
still allowing people to enjoy the economic, social, and cultural benefits
that forests provide” Ms. Seymour said.  “But until there is the political
will to address the difficult market and governance failures that drive
forest loss, deforestation will continue.”



Please call or email Cathy Reade to arrange an interview or to request a
copy of Ms. Seymour’s paper 

Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing

Australia: Cathy Reade Ph. 0413575934 creade at squirrel.com.au

Indonesia: Greg Clough Ph. +628128646613  g.clough at cgiar.org


The Center for International Forestry Research is an international research
organization funded by donors around the world, including the Australian
Government. In addition to its headquarters in Indonesia, CIFOR has regional
offices in Africa and Latin America, and manages projects in another 30


CIFOR is researching a range of forest and climate change issues in
countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America.


CIFOR is one of 15 research centers within the Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research   www.cgiar.org 




1.7 billion tons of carbon is released annually due to land use change, of
which the major part is tropical deforestation (Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change). This represents 20%–25% of current global carbon emissions
and is more than the amount produced by the world’s fossil-fuel intensive
transport sector.


According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), 13 million
hectares of forests are lost annually, an area almost twice the size of
Tasmania’s 6.8 million hectares. 

In Indonesia, deforestation between 2000 & 2005 averaged 1.87 million tons
per year, according to the FAO. The FAO also estimates one hectare of forest
in Indonesia stores an average of 50 metric tons of carbon above the ground.


Agricultural expansion

The expansion of the agricultural frontier is usually the main cause of
deforestation. Agricultural activities that clear forest land include the
establishment of permanent crops, shifting cultivation, and cattle ranching.

In Latin American, clearing forests to enable grazing for cattle ranching is
the main cause of deforestation, especially in Brazil. Another significant
cause of deforestation in Brazil is the conversion of forest land for soy

In Indonesia, conversion of forest to oil palm plantations is a significant
cause of deforestation.  The high price of crude palm oil is driving the
expansion of area planted to oil palm.

Wood extraction 

Logging does not represent a change in land use and thus neither legal nor
illegal logging are major causes of deforestation. However, logging
practices usually degrade forest resources. The debris left by logging and
the damage it inflicts can make the forest more vulnerable to fires, which
can cause deforestation.  

The building of roads to transport logged timber can indirectly facilitate
access for settlers who convert the land to other uses.

Infrastructure extension 

Forests can be cleared to construct roads, settlements, public services,
pipelines, open-pit mines, and hydro-electric dams. Of all the
infrastructure development activities that might harm forests, road
construction and improvement us the biggest contributor to deforestation.
This occurs not through the forest land physically occupied by the road.
Rather, roads lower transport costs which in turn allows people to undertake
productive activities in remote areas. And often these activities involve or
promote forest conversion.



In the climate change context of reduced emissions from deforestation and
degradation (REDD), several elements have to be taken into account when
constructing policies for the post-2012 climate regime. These include:

•           Programs designed to avoid deforestation in the interest of
mitigating climate change should  targeted areas with the highest mitigation
potential. Clear priority should be given to regions or areas with a high
deforestation risk combined with a high carbon content. For example, control
of forest conversion and fire on peatlands should receive high priority due
to the disproportionate emissions potential from these ecosystems.  

•           Implementation of REDD programs will be a challenge for many
developing countries, particularly for those with weak institutions and
governance mechanisms. Investment in institutional and human capacity to
design and manage REDD programs is a high priority. 

•           Implementation of REDD activities in the absence public access
to information, public participation in decision-making and capacity and
institution building, poses the risk that vulnerable communities could be
made worse off.  Marginalization of forest-dependent people could result if
more powerful actors appropriate newly-available rents from forest
resources, or if repressive law enforcement effort is directed at
small-scale forest users.

•           Design and implementation of REDD programs will require
trade-offs among efficiency, effectiveness, and fairness. Such choices are
political decisions that can be informed by, but not determined by,
scientific research. Accordingly, it will be crucial to ensure all relevant
stakeholders are engaged in building consensus on how to best optimize the
role of forests in abating climate change. 




Cathy Reade

Coordinator - Public Awareness

Crawford Fund

Ph/Fax: 07 54483095

Mobile: 0413 575 934



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